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Yuan leads Asia's losses, hits new 13-month low

London

THE latest drop in China's yuan got emerging markets (EM) off to a soft start to the week on Monday, as US sanctions threats weighed on Turkey's lira and talk of financial aid sparked a leap in Pakistan's rupee.

The subdued mood meant MSCI's 24-country EM stocks index was on course for its first drop in five sessions, though there was understandable caution in the mix, with the Bank of Japan and the US Federal Reserve holding significant meetings this week.

China's yuan led Asia's losses as it hit its latest 13-month low with a 0.4 per cent drop, followed by India's rupee which softened 0.2 per cent.

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There was then a late 4.3 per cent leap by Pakistan's rupee as local media reported that China had agreed to provide US$2 billion in loans, adding to expectations that Pakistan is also heading for what would be a 13th IMF support programme.

"Without the IMF they would look really bad," Aberdeen Standard Investments portfolio manager Wiktor Szabo said.

Turkey's lira was under pressure again, retesting 4.90 per dollar, after US President Donald Trump threatened to slap on sanctions if Ankara does not free a jailed American pastor.

Ankara says Andrew Brunson, who has been detained for two years and has worked in Turkey for 20 years, was behind a failed military coup against Erdogan's government in 2016.

This latest crisis between the Nato allies would be a further blow to Turkey's already-fragile economy. The country's government bonds were weaker and stocks were also marginally in the red following a recent run of gains.

Elsewhere, most markets were quiet ahead of Tuesday's BoJ meeting where it could hint at dialling down its stimulus, and Wednesday's Fed meeting which is expected to tee up another US interest rate hike.

That will further ratchet up the pressure on countries and companies in emerging markets which borrow heavily in dollars, Turkey being one of the main ones.

New data from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) on Monday showed that U.S dollar credit to emerging markets has risen to US$3.7 trillion with growth in dollar-denominated debt securities up 16 per cent in the last year.

Countries are also loading up on debt in other denominations. Euro credit to non-bank borrowers outside the euro area - although that is not just emerging economies - was up 10 per cent to 3.1 trillion euros (S$4.9 trillion). REUTERS